May 21, 2008

Nothing against Bioshock

But does anyone else think it’s weird that on the one hand our vision gets called crazy…and on the other hand, it gets evaluated based on a video game?

Rich Nerds Want To Build A Utopian City In The Ocean And…Wait A Minute…

We all know what happened to Rapture. Nutty smart folks thought they could build a utopian world under the ocean, they couldn’t, whole thing went to the dogs, everybody died. We all learned a lesson. A lesson lost on three super-rich SIlicon Valley types (including the founder of PayPal), who have founded the the Seasteading Institute, with the goal of moving out into the ocean and creating a world "with diverse social, political, and legal systems". While their buildings won’t be built under the waves (they’ll be built atop them, on floating platforms), the basic principle remains: they’re going to get smug, they’re going to mess with things they shouldn’t mess with, everybody is going to die.

Sure, this is from a gamer blog, but based on comments to other blog posts this week, "That won’t work – look at Rapture" seems to be a fairly common sentiment.  While I think that fictional narratives such as video games are a great source of inspiration and emotional images, they are not exactly accurate models of reality. 

Take Ayn Rand’s Galt’s Gulch as an example.  On the one hand, it’s inspirational to read about a bunch of talented people getting together to make a new society.  On the other hand, I don’t think her models of operating a small independent economy, or expecting the rest of the world to fall apart without these people, are accurate.  Using them as the basis for a strategy would be foolish.  Instead, we want the seastead economy to be as interdependent as possible with the rest of the world.  Tropical Islands are poor, Hong Kong is rich – we want to be more like the latter than the former.

We can do the same sort of analysis for BioShock. There, the city’s owner/ruler demanded that the city maintain a closed economy; when supply and demand inevitably produced smuggling, he restricted trade, closed the transport links that allowed exit from the city, and nationalized his enemies’ property. This, combined with a healthy dose of class resentment, pretty much doomed the whole endeavor in exactly the obvious way.

This is close to the opposite of our philosophy. We want a maximally open economy, and we think that free exit is so important that we’ve called it the only Universal Human Right.  We certainly appreciate the comparison with a fictional universe that has such a powerful place in people’s hearts, and it’s fun to joke about – there will definitely be some homages to BioShock on our prototype platform.  But we’d also appreciate it if, when it comes to evaluating our idea, people dug into the details rather than using superficial similarities.  Also, it’s good to keep in mind that fiction is often a poor mirror for the real world.  After all, plenty of things like this have been tried , and many of them ended badly, but never as badly as everybody died.

4 Comments on “Nothing against Bioshock

May 22, 2008 at 4:19 am

I have has the same experience arguing for privatized police forces. A common argument people have is “that won’t work, look at what happened in the movie Robocop!”

— Sean Hastings

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind." – Dr. Seuss

May 22, 2008 at 1:29 pm

I really don’t want to be another person to "poo-poo", on your parade.  Overall, this is a really good "idea".  However, and let get real about this — that’s all it is.  Great, you have the money — does that still mean it’s going to work?  Great, nobody died — but are you going to bankrupt yourselves and your children’s future on some unobtainable utopian dream?


Bioshock and Robo-cop comments aside, and let’s have a cold hard "Reality Check" of the BIGGER issue.  This planet, our country, and we as a society — are not mature enough for ANYONE to do this.  This isn’t Star Trek, we don’t live in a peaceful world, in which people’s rights and individuality are respected!  WE live in a shallow world where cash is king, and looks are more important then brains.  A world where human life is cheap.  We fight over resources – parking spaces – Xbox’s.  There is no equality ANYWHERE.  The rich stand on the backs of the poor.  The weak are exploited by the strong — THAT is the world we live in.  


1.) Do you REALLY think that the United States Government is going to let you build ANYTHING on the outskirts of our boards, without checking-up to see what you’re doing?  Coming on board all hours of the day and night, searching apartments?  Claiming it’s for "drugs or weapons"?  So much for "Universal Human Rights."  


What… is THAT against the law?  Yeah… well you’ve left the United States, honey.  You’re in international waters.  The US Government can and WILL do whatever they want, and claim it’s a "threat against National Security", and it will be your word against soldiers with armed machine guns.  (who do you think is going to win that fight?  Answer: NOT YOU)


2.) The second, and I mean the very second, that you leave the protection of the United States — you are going to have so many other countries (friendly and non-friendly), stiffing around your little "utopian platform city" wondering what you’re doing?  And looking for an opportunity to get over on you.  How are you going to protect yourselves?  With Police?  With an Army? or with WORDS? (So don’t foolishly believe nobody would ever do something like that, because this is the unfortunate and ugly side mankind.) 


Again… you’ve left the United States.  You’re in international waters.  Anyone or any country can come on board anytime they feel like it.  Committing crimes against YOUR citizen (stealing, raping women, kidnapping children, and possibly murder)  Unless you have something that’s going to stop them, like an ARMY or weapons.  But wait, if you have "weapons" that will bring the U.S. back into the picture again won’t it?  


I know I’ve painted an ugly picture — but there it is.  You’re going to do what you want, regardless.  But, have you REALLY thought this thing through?  You’re basically "Starting a NEW country", and taking on the problems of running, said, country.  There’s still time to back out of this before you ruin yourselves financially.


If you’re going to do this?  For God sakes, do it on LAND — the United States.  Somewhere, like Colorado or Wyoming.   Where there’s tons of open land, and nobody will bother you, but you are still protected by the police if you need them.


Captain Patri
May 25, 2008 at 2:22 am

 I don’t think this is a very reasonable viewpoint.  All sorts of things happen all over the world that the US doesn’t like.  Only a few of them are big enough to get the attention of the US military.  The US military does not pay attention to the internal affairs of cruise ships.

And the idea that weapons to defend ourselves = weapons that will make the US attack us is just silly.  .50 caliber machine guns make a substantial defense.  So do ship-ship cruise missiles.  These are weapons on a whole different scale from the WMD that the US will attack over.  (Hell, we may be able to *buy* cruise missiles from US manufacturers!)

Anyway, what really matters is – some of us don’t buy your doomsday scenario.  We are going to try it.  You are welcome to doubt us, but we aren’t spending your money or risking your life.  Given the upside to the idea, isn’t it worth at least trying?

May 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Reactions like crlake’s, despite their outrageously unreasonable claims (and unsubstantiated assertions) have one useful side: they lead me to think that it’s a good thing TSI got its initial publicity surge right at the start, rather than later down the road. It’s safer to have operations going on quietly and sanely now, after getting most of the potentially interested people notified, while there is nothing for the knee-jerking destructionists (for lack of a better term to qualify the incredibly negative attitudes some people have displayed regarding seasteading) to focus their attacks on. Imagine the kind of calls they could have made if there was a prototype floated right under their nose in the SF Bay: I can imagine picketting, calls to the municipality to have it sunk with prejudice, smear campaigns and the like. At least with time apathy works in favor of TSI not getting such crazy negative attraction.

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